As the nation experiences a new period of self-reflection on systemic racism and police-community relations, Montgomery College has been having these difficult conversations and considers this to be an ongoing necessity to help heal and bring greater equity to the communities.
After nationwide protests against police violence, civic leaders, including those in Montgomery County, are working to enact changes in laws, policies, and cultural moorings that have entrenched inequality so deeply. Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard held a discussion last month titled Building Racial Justice through Policing with Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones as part of the Presidential Dialogue Series.
Chief Jones heads one of the largest forces in Maryland and has 35 years of experience in law enforcement. He and Dr. Pollard candidly discussed the Black Lives Matter movement, societal inequities, mental health, and multicultural training for officers. The bottom line, Chief Jones aims to create better relationships between police and the communities they serve.
He talked about the significant role of policing, as it requires officers to fully understand their roles in the community and try to come to peaceful resolutions in their interactions.
“We have tried to find ways to change the culture of policing when it comes to dealing with minority communities. We need to understand history and how law enforcement has been utilized as the oppressor over the past, more than 200 years of this country; we have to really be careful about the idea that we are this occupying force,” chief Jones said. “There are communities here in Montgomery County that need us the most, but trust us the least and that has been a great undertaking: to be able to earn the trust.”
If you don’t have a strong relationship to build that trust and you don’t have courageous conversations, we will always be one or two steps behind. It has been a unique challenge but I have been willing to take it on because this is the opportunity of a lifetime to have these conversations with our community members.
He believes the way to do that is by building relationships and fostering trust. “If you don’t have a strong relationship to build that trust and you don’t have courageous conversations, we will always be one or two steps behind. It has been a unique challenge but I have been willing to take it on because this is the opportunity of a lifetime to have these conversations with our community members and have built some phenomenal ones here in the county.”
As part of the ongoing changes in the world of policing toward racial equity, MC’s Office of Equity and Inclusion at Montgomery College has been focusing on anti-racism work.
“Anti-racism is activism, it is actually saying, calling out, speaking out, in words, by actions, by policy and by practice against racism, racist actions, racist behavior, and racist interactions,” said Sharon Bland, chief equity and inclusion officer at Montgomery College, during the recent fall equity dialogue event.
The event featured a conversation between Professor Brandon Wallace and Dr. Andrae Brown, professor of psychology, which highlighted transformative leaders who moved from dreamers to revolutionaries and transformed the world around them. They discussed how the legacies of marginalization, micro-aggressions, and various forms of oppression inform people’s overall well-being. Dr. Brown talked about how to foster critical consciousness, empowerment, accountability, and healing as individuals and as members of the community.
In addition, the Office of Equity of Inclusion has been holding the Let’s Talk series about the subjugation of the black community and identifying racial biases. The series also touches on more of the difficult conversations including the defund the police movement, police violence against women, disability and social justice, and empathy post-election.
In closing her dialogue with the chief of police, Dr. Pollard recalled being a part of a police explorers program when she was just 14 years old.
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“I have always had a profound respect for police officers and the work they do because I felt then, and I believe now, that ultimately a civilized community and a civilized nation needs healthy police officers, healthy in the broadest sense,” Pollard said. “Healthy in that they have a deep commitment to the communities they serve, they believe in the potential and the power and the hope of what that means to their community… and ultimately, there’s a trusting relationship.”
Banner photo credit: Ted Eytan, Flickr.